Germany Seeks Dialogue With Genocide Descendants

The new German director general for Sub-Saharan Africa and the Sahel , Ambassador Georg Schmidt, feels it is crucial his country engages directly with the Ovaherero and Nama over the genocide committed against their forebears by his country more than 110 years ago.

The Ovaherero and Nama suffered the most when extermination orders were issued by the German military leadership in Namibia between 1904 and 1908.

“Although [the Namibian] government is our main partner when it comes to implementation of development projects, this should not stop us in engaging directly with the concerned communities at all levels,” said Schmidt at a press conference on Friday in Windhoek.

Schmidt was in the country on a four-day introductory visit to Namibia to meet government representatives, concerned communities, political parties, German political foundations and civil society.

During his visit, Schmidt met representatives of the Ovaherero and Nama, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, among others.

He also paid a courtesy visit to the Ondomboro cemetery in Okahandja where Chief Samuel Maharero, Chief Jan Jonker Afrikaner, Paramount Chief Clemence Kapuuo and Paramount Chief Kuaima Riruako, among others, lie buried.

“It is always a different thing to read about what happened in the past but it is a very different feeling to stand in front of the graves and breathe the air. This brings a very personal feeling, a feeling of much shame and sorrow,” he said. When asked whether he has met the Ovaherero Traditional Authority (OTA) paramount chief, Aocate Vekuii Rukoro, Schmidt said: “I have requested an audience with Rukoro but unfortunately we were told that he was travelling, but yes I would have very much liked to meet him.”

Schmidt also used the opportunity to apologise to those communities negatively affected during the German colonial era.

“I am very sorry for the atrocities and violence that was committed by German colonial powers,” he said.

Namibian communities affected by the genocide have been demanding reparations from contemporary Germany, a plea that has often fallen on deaf ears.

Namibia has been repatriating human remains, mostly skulls, that have been in German laboratories since the colonial time.

The skulls were shipped to Germany where they were used for tests meant to prove theories of racial superiority between blacks and whites, historians say, among other experiments.

Many skulls of Namibians remain in German institutes, with some refusing to hand them over to the Namibian Government for reburial.

On Friday Schmidt said the relationship between his country and Namibia is much more than just one important dark chapter in bilateral history.

“I feel it is very important that we take a step back, take stock and see what actually works and doesn’t work and do that very closely with the concerned communities to see and hear their views,” he added.

Schmidt acknowledged that there is a feeling among the affected communities that Germany has lacked a sense of ownership insofar as genocide is concerned, something that he said has to be looked into.

Source : New Era